Lots of people have asked us what we do about Birthdays whilst we’re travelling and as we just celebrated Imogen’s Birthday in Guatemala, it’s a great opportunity to show you how we recognise and celebrate another year around the sun.
It was in about 2004 when I suddenly started to question presents. Why was it that people would give their kids so many presents (more than they could ever play with let alone remember) and then spend all year paying it off, only to do the same the following year as well?
Although we never gave our children what we couldn’t afford, we must have forgotten about that analysis and the presents became a fixation!
It was probably around 2012, after our move to Australia, that we realised we’d been substituting presents for spending quality time with our kids. We both been working long hours, full time and we lavished our kids with year round gifts to make up for it. No wonder they weren’t grateful!!
Since then we’ve worked really hard to reduce the number of gifts we give our kids, not only during the year but also for their Birthdays and instead give them opportunities and experiences that they will genuinely remember.
Last year we were in Morocco and Imogen requested a stay in the desert and to see camels and sand dunes. We happily obliged! This year she asked for something a equally as unique and wonderful.
We now encourage them to choose something that they’d like to do. An experience we wouldn’t usually do and that is significantly special that they’ll remember it forever.
Imogen decided to choose extreme zip-lining across Lake Atitlan and I’m pretty sure it’s something she’ll never forget!!
Where is it?
Lake Atitlan sits in Guatemala’s south west, just a few hours from Antigua. The zip-lining is in the Reserva Natural in Panajachel (pronounced Pana-ha-chel) on the lake’s eastern tip. It’s a town that attracts many, many tourists and isn’t our usual destination however a day trip there is tolerable!
How to get there
The park is about 10 minutes outside Panajachel and there are a number of ways to get there:
- Book through a tour agency in Panajacheland they’ll provide you with transport.
- Drive or cycle directly there. If you’re cycling, be aware there’s a relatively steep hill to conquer first.
- Get a tuktuk from Panajachel. Cost is roughly Q10 per person, we paid Q50.
- Have a lancha (boat) drop you off at Hotel Atitlan (the only ugly high-rise building, painted green) and walk up.
The cost & opening times
The park is open everyday from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm and ziplining runs at specific times:
- 9:00 am, 11:00 am, 1:00 pm and 3:00 pm
There are different costs associated with entrance, zip-lining and camping. To see current prices head here.
Entry fee to the park
- Adults Q70
- Minors (under 12 yrs) Q40
Zip trek and park
- Ziptrek X-Tremos Q250
- Ziptrek Ultra X-Tremos Q375
For our family of five we paid: Q1875/£180/$230. There is no doubt that it’s very expensive, especially in comparison to everything else in Guatemala, but we felt that as it was her birthday it was worth the cost.
What else is there to do there?
You could effectively spend a day here as there’s multiple things to do including nature trails through the oak forests and woods, hanging bridges, an observation deck, a beach, waterfalls which you can swim in, organic coffee groves, wild animals, some sort of beach near the lake and a butterfly preserve.
Why is it called X-Tremos?
There are TWO different zip-lining trails to choose from.
The first is called X-tremos and is a set of eight zip-lines which goes through the woods. These are relatively short, 40 second zip-lines which are still fun but they’re definitely on the milder side of fun. They also cost less.
The second set are long, fast and high and called ULTRA X-tremos. They take you above Lake Atitlan and you zip-line down to the smaller set. In total there are seven zip-lines to get you back to the restaurant/visitor centre where you start from.
Specifications of Ultra X-Tremos:
- Number of zip-lines: 7
- Total zip-line distance: 2,381m (8,763 ft.)
- Cable distance range: 90m (295ft.) to 860m (2,822ft). That’s a long ride!
- Total tour time: 2hr
- Walking: 900m (2,953 ft.) with a vertical ascent of 136 m (446 ft.)
She chose the ULTRA X-Tremos
Imogen, our dare-devil risk taker, decided to choose the Ultra X-Tremos! It doesn’t surprise me at all. The youngest of three she has always been exposed to risk taking greater than her years and she loves to do scary stuff.
She had an absolute blast and has talked about it ever since. Far more than anything else we’ve done over the last two years.
Some of the things they don’t tell you
- You need to hike UP to get to the zip-lines and UP and UP and UP… It’s a work out but the view takes your mind off it. Expect to hike for about 25 minutes to the first line and then about 10 minutes between each line after that.
- Light and small kids are able to do all of the zip-lines BUT on the longer two lines they will be accompanied by a guide. This is because of the wind which twists and spins them (due to not weighing so much). Our kids had an amazing time and they really liked being accompanied by the guides because it made them go faster lol.
- If you change your mind, you cannot hike down! Instead you’ll be accompanied on the zip-line by a guide.
- There is only ONE toilet en route and that is about fifteen minutes into the first hike.
- There is free water at the start of the first zip-line but none after.
- You need both hands to control the zip-line; one to hold the runner and one to brake at the end.
- If you want to record your zip-ling with a GoPro or equivalent, best to buy a head strap which can be secured onto your helmet. The chest strap won’t work due to the harness straps.
- It is the second scariest thing I’ve ever done! Aside from jumping out of a plane at 8,000 feet, this was exhilaratingly scary. I’d still do it again though lol.
- Both the X-Tremos and the Ultras end in an optional ropes course where you can cross a river on thin wooden planks or by wobbling from one swing to another!
Video taken on a GoPro 3+ attached to my helmet! Expect some wobbling and weird angles!
Fancy gliding through the Guatemalan skies, high above Lake Atitlan? Pin this and read it again.